Editor's note: The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts provided source material to Resource Library for the following article. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts directly through either this phone number or web address:


robert lazzarini

October 25, 2003-January 4, 2004


They look like the real thing - a violin, a hammer, a telephone, a chair, a human skull. But they're deformed in seemingly impossible ways - twisted, elongated, transformed. They are the work of American artist Robert Lazzarini (born 1965), whose art merges extreme realism with extreme distortion.

Lazzarini recreates familiar objects to scale out of their original materials, while making them look bizarrely different. A Virginia Museum of Fine Arts exhibition of his work will be on view in Richmond from Oct. 25, 2003 to Jan. 4, 2004. This will be the first one-person museum exhibition of Lazzarini's sculptures and will feature his major sculptures from 1997 to the present.

"In some ways, they are like visual puzzles - challenging, but at the same time extremely beautiful," says Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Director Dr. Michael Brand. (right: "skull (ii)," 2000, by Robert Lazzarini (American, b. 1965) is made of resin, bone and pigment and measures19 by 3 by 4 inches. It was made in an edition of six plus two artist's copies. Photo by Jeffrey Chong, © 2003 Robert Lazzarini)

The exhibition will include two of the artist's most widely recognized pieces: an installation of four skewed skulls, seen in "BitStreams" at New York's Whitney Museum of American Art in 2001, and a warped pay phone seen in the 2002 Whitney Biennial.

"Robert Lazzarini's work provides a powerful visual experience," says John Ravenal, curator of Modern and Contemporary art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and organizer of the exhibition.

"They are beautiful and unusual, and visitors of all ages and interests can immediately connect with them. Also, like all great art, they encourage thought. I hope that viewers will be engaged and stimulated by their encounter with Robert's work," Ravenal says. (right: "chair," 2000, by Robert Lazzarini (American, b. 1965) is made of maple and pigment and measures 54 x 26 x 12 inches. It was made in an edition of six plus one artist's copy. Photo by Jeffrey Chong, © 2003 Robert Lazzarini)

A selection of Lazzarini's meticulous graphite drawings will be included in the exhibition, titled "robert lazzarini," to provide insight into his interest in two-dimensional images, which underlies his sculptural works.

Lazzarini's sculptural process begins with familiar objects, which he photographs and scans into a computer. Using computer-design programs, he subjects the images to radical distortions and then transforms the virtual objects into full-size, three-dimensional models through rapid prototyping, a method of computer-generated model making. These models form the basis for the final sculptures, which he produces to scale with traditional sculpting methods - carving, casting, coloring - and from the same materials as the original objects.

They appear to expand and contract as viewers shift vantage points, seeming to collapse upon themselves or, in the artist's words, "slip toward their own demise."

Ravenal says Lazzarini is "a rising star on the American art scene. "Organizing his first solo museum exhibition at VMFA demonstrates our commitment to bringing first-rate new art to our audiences and to presenting it in a thorough and scholarly manner." (right John Ravenal, Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art . Photo by Denise Lewis, © 2001 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.)

Accompanying the exhibition will be a 64-page hardcover book designed by the artist with an essay by Ravenal. It will include 21 color plates and will be available in the museum's shop.

The exhibition is funded by gifts from The Council of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Fabergé Ball Endowment, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation and the Peter Norton Family Foundation, along with additional gifts from individual, foundation and corporate donors.

rev. 4/14/05

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Resource Library.

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 2003 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

Copyright 2012 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.